Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Is £17.8m spend on Wembley Stadium public realm a good use of CIL cash?

I am grateful to fellow blogger James Powney LINK for drawing attention to last week's Cabinet decision to spend £17.8m of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) cash raised through the Quintain development on improving the Public Realm outside Brent Civic Centre and along Olympic Way.

Just in case we thought that there may be other areas of Wembley or Brent  that could do with an infrastucture uplift, Brent claim that there will be benefits for the borough as well as Quintain.  In particular they want a public square outside the Wembley Library and restrictions on Quintain's plans for site NW04 adjacent to the Civic Centre. They argue that this will support an 'education quarter'. The Council has told the College of North West London LINK that it wishes to acquire the College's Wembley Site and 'would not look favourably on planning permission for the required housing provision if the college proceeds with an alternative developer.'

 This is what the Officer's Report LINK had to say: 

To assist in achieving the vision for Wembley, a significant element in terms of place making is the provision of new and substantial steps to the stadium to replace the pedestrian way (‘pedway’) and works to the public realm between Wembley Park underground station and the National Stadium Wembley: Olympic Way. This will enhance the area, both from an aesthetic and functional requirement. 

Olympic Way as a piece of public realm is showing its age. It does not present the type of quality considered consistent with the environment necessary for a world renowned iconic venue and the wider Wembley Park development. In the context of other pressing infrastructure needs and other Council revenue spending requirements, a response might be that a significant Council funding contribution 
towards these changes should be a low priority. Nevertheless, this would be a simplistic and does not take account of all factors, including limitations associated with funding streams generated from development. CIL funding attained by the Council is specifically related to infrastructure and is not available to support Council general revenue spending. In addition this proposed change in public realm should be seen as part of a wider picture about what will be achieved in Wembley which will have far reaching positive impacts for Brent and its prospects.

Improved public realm has a key role in place-making. Such changes in their own right have the potential to totally transform the perception and function of an area. It can lead to enhanced social and economic value benefits that far outweigh the initial investment. Notable examples of the impacts of such transformational public realm changes are Regent’s Street, Granary Square at Kings Cross, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool city centres. Empirical evidence set out in valuing the Benefits of Regeneration published by CLG 2010 indicates a benefit cost ratio of 1.4 for public realm work. Specific evidence associated with Sheffield indicated that the £9.5 million invested in the Peace Gardens has generated £4.5 million visitor shopping/leisure spend per annum that otherwise would not have occurred. In addition it attracted commercial property investment and occupiers that otherwise would not have come, improving investment yields with the associated economic benefits of providing access to future investor funding. 

The transformational change of Wembley has and will continue to require strong partnership working between the Council, developers and key stakeholders. As part of providing certainty and support for investment, the Council has previously identified that it will use contributions generated by Quintain’s developments to support the new infrastructure. Key elements relate to where these contributions will be prioritised relate to the provision of new jobs and homes and improvements to the environment and public realm. As part of the shared vision for Wembley, the Council has worked closely with Quintain in identifying the quality of public space that both organisations consider is necessary to enhance the Wembley offer. 

Following a design competition, in which the council participated, Dixon Jones were selected as Architects and Gross Max as Landscape Architects for Olympic Way. Designs have been developed over a number of months that when implemented will: 

·                 Provide new hard and soft landscaping throughout 

·                 New coordinated crossing at Fulton Road 

·                 New Lighting columns with large banners and future digital screens 

·                 New Trees 

·                 Built in services to allow pop up and cultural events 

·                 Fast Wifi throughout 

·                 Containment for future digital screens 

·                 Wayfinding 

·                 Create a significant square outside Civic Centre 

·                 Remove of the Pedway and new substantial steps 

·                 Enhanced entrance to the stadium 

·                 New Retail / meeting point below new stadium steps 

·                 Removal of surplus ramps and steps adjacent to 1 Olympic Way 

·                 Cycle parking at Wembley Park station 

·                 Treatment to Bobby Moore Bridge 

·      Long term management arrangements through potential for designation as a ‘Area of special interest’ 

Powney, an ex-Labour councillor, comments:
I am not not reassured by the opacity of Quintain's relationship with the Council, or what often strike me as the perverse judgements of Cllr Muhammed Butt in planning matters, or the degree to which the Planning Committee is independent of the Council Leader's influence. 


Philip Grant said...

A worrying factor about all this proposed spending is the fact that neither Brent Council nor Quintain appear to know which of them actually owns Olympic Way! Para. 3.29 of the Officer's Report says:-

'The improved public realm along Olympic Way will be designed to better take advantage of the commercial opportunities to enhance the visitor experience. The ownership of Olympic Way is currently unresolved between Quintain and the Council. Quintain however, actively manage the asset and as such commercial activities currently engaged in on this space generates income for them. If the Council makes its contribution to the public realm works, Quintain has agreed with the Council, that the ownership matter will not be pursued by both parties for the long term, possibly up to 25 years. It has also agreed in principle to share the net income generated through future commercial activities once the public realm works are completed.'

Surely Brent Council should know (or should be able to find out from old Wembley Borough Council minutes at Brent Archives) whether it owns the land and highway of Olympic Way, which it constructed in 1947/48 as a link between Wembley Park Station and the Stadium in preparation for the 1948 Olympic Games!

If Quintain own Olympic Way, and obtain financial benefit from it (Para. 3.36 of the Report actually says: 'The Council’s funding of the Olympic Way public realm works would however have significant financial benefits for Quintain.'), shouldn't THEY be paying the cost of the work on it?

And if Brent owns Olympic Way, shouldn't Quintain already have been paying over at least something to the Council for the commercial activities income they have generated from it for a number of years?


Philip Grant said...

I think that the section of the Officer's Report to Cabinet on Community Infrastructure Levy (Paras 3.32 to 3.34) is worth setting out here, so that readers can consider how this proposed £17.8 million might affect spending elsewhere in the borough:-

'3.32 The Wembley Growth Area will generate a significant amount of Community Infrastructure Levy. To date the Tokyngton ward has generated £10.4 million in Strategic CIL receipts received. A further £5.5 million triggered by starts on site is due to be received in phases. A further £24 million (which could be subject to requests for relief) and is dependent on starts on site has not yet been triggered.

3.33 Comparable information for the borough as a whole is that a total of £21.5 million in Strategic CIL has been received, a further £17 million has been triggered, whilst a further £71 million has not yet been triggered.

3.34 However clearly if the CIL is used for this project then it will not be available to support other forms of infrastructure. None of the strategic CIL has yet been allocated to projects.'

You may have some thoughts on why the Cabinet is proposing to spend such a large slice of CIL money on a project in Tokyngton Ward.


Anonymous said...

It strikes me that Quintain's attitude to their £17.8m feed in to community developments can be one of rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of what an investment that will be in making it a 'desirable area' in property market terms.

Meanwhile somewhat to the south and east of Wembley Stadium:

"A string of oligarchs, foreign royalty and multimillionaire businesspeople have been revealed as the owners of vacant properties in the borough where the deadly Grenfell Tower fire left scores of people homeless.

"Owners of the 1,652 properties listed as unoccupied by Kensington and Chelsea council include a Ukrainian billionaire fighting extradition to the US, a former mayor of New York, a high-profile luxury property developer and a senior television executive,"

the Guardian reports

Alan Wheatley

Unknown said...

Not wishing to throw a major spanner in the works, but is'nt the Pedway and part of Olympic Way owned by Wembley National Stadium Limited, a subsidiary of the F.A? After, all is connected directly to the stadium concourse, and I agree with you 100% Philip, surely Brent Council can identify who the owners are, but maybe this is another ploy to sell of Public Land right under our noses. As for Quintain receiving any of their CIL contributions back in the form of enhancing their land, I think is nonesense. Clearly the Council should be clear and transparent in all there dealings with this developer who has persistently moved the goal posts in what they originally envisaged as to what we now have, and Wembley Stadium views and experience are now blighted by huge tower blocks with architecture that affords little merit. Just ugly fake cladded buildings totally unsympathetic to the once tree lined avenues, and grassy verges once inhabited by Wembley Stadium and surrounding area. I have no faith in any improvements they claim they will make.

Martin Francis said...

It is interesting that there is major work going on at Olympic Way right now which includes the planting of 22 trees to be completed by Spring 2018. Will this be torn up when the London Borough of Brent and Quintain start their works?

Unknown said...

Well the Wembley Masterplan tell's of Brent Councils committment to planting 1,000 trees, so I guess 22 is a start LOL. Who know's Martin, I am still saddened everytime I walk past Brent House it had some beautiful mature trees in the landscaping that were all destroyed in the name of progress and redevelopment. One was so huge it must have been there for a best 150 years, such a tragic loss.

Pete Firmin said...

Intrigued by "Brent claim that there will be benefits for the borough as well as Quintain." I thought that Brent might at least attempt some lame argument about this benefiting the borough as a whole, but once again, its all about Wembley.The CIL saga is already pretty rotten without this example of the developer benefiting from the money they are supposed to give for the benefit of the community. Here in the Deep South (aka South Kilburn) we are told that Kilburn is lumped together with Brondesbury Park and Queens park wards for the purpose of allocation of CiL money. Not many people noticed that the scale of development in brondesbury and Queens Park is similar to South Kilburn....